No, this Instagram photo does not prove the Russian army is in Ukraine

Evan Bartlett@ev_bartlett
Thursday 31 July 2014 19:30


A series of social media posts have been cited as proof that the Russian army has been operating inside Ukraine.

An article on BuzzFeed reports that Alexander Sotkin, a Russian army 'communications specialist', posed in photos that "show him operating military equipment inside Ukraine, including manning a missile launcher system of the type used to shoot down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17".

However, this is not necessarily 100 per cent accurate. Sotkin has indeed posted photos to his Instagram account near the Russia/Ukraine border but the only proof that he was inside the rebel-held territory of eastern Ukraine is Instagram's geotagging feature.

Two posts from Sotkin's Instagram account appear to have been taken inside Ukraine

Sotkin posted two photos on his Instagram account on 30 June and 5 July that have been tagged inside Ukraine but the accuracy of the geotagging feature is undetermined.

Furthermore, the only 'proof' that Sotkin was 'manning a missile launcher' is a post on one photo (below) that says "Sitting around, working on a buk, listening to music, basically a good Sunday."


That post was geotagged on the Russian side of the border on 27 July, ten days after the MH17 crash on 17 July.

To further cloud the issue, there is a dispute over what the means with the word "buk", which could in fact indicate the Russian slang word for laptop.

If the photos are verified, it could further implicate Russia in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine - the Kremlin has strenuously denied supplying pro-Russian rebels with the missile system.

i100 has spoken to Instagram, but the company said it was not currently available for comment.